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Burying Ghosts

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“You try my patience. Make your choice.”

Christine trembled, looking at the man in front of her with wide eyes. His face, his eyes. Pulling herself to her feet, she breathed deeply to calm herself as she walked the few steps separating them. Her Angel’s back to her, she placed her small hand on his shoulder. Her pulse beating wildly, she could faintly hear Raoul’s cries and a distant mob chanting in the background. She then began to sing softly, words and a melody that she was coming up with on the spot, trying to get to him lest he push her away again.

She felt him relax under her touch and voice, his head bowing, then she made him turn around and took his face between her hands. The Phantom made to move back, but Christine kissed him firmly before he could; his eyes opened wide, his arms remaining rigidly at his sides as his whole body tensed. It was Christine who pulled away after a few seconds, catching her breath. She touched his face; the Phantom’s eyes welled up as he recognized the real tenderness in her look. Then, she surprised both men further by kissing him yet again, silently wrapping his hand around the ring he had given her on the stage of Don Juan.

He moved away, staring in shock before walking towards the candles nearest to his precious organ. He grabbed the first one he reached and began to tread his way towards the boy. With one quick movement, ignoring Christine’s shout, he burnt a part of the lasso, letting the Vicomte free after a moment. His mind began to wander away as the woman ran to her betrothed, helping him remove the rope he was tied with.

The Phantom heard his own voice, shouting at them, yet he could not register his words. She stayed behind for a moment, which he used to sing his love for her for the first and last time until she turned and ran back towards the Vicomte, sobbing. He did not have the strength to look on as she left. He knew the mob hunting him down was close, but he chose to walk towards the discarded veil he had forced his Christine into. He sat on his organ’s bench, holding the white lace between his hands as he slipped the black ring in his hand to its place on his small finger. His tears stained the garment as he pressed it to his face, kissing it. He could hear the soft chiming of his music box, echoing across the cave.

-

“Wait, Raoul! Please, listen to me!”

“Christine, we have no time! We must go, now,” he insisted, pulling at her hand. She had stopped in her tracks just after they exit the cursed man’s lair, just before the boat, and his patience was growing thin. He looked forward, attempting to walk as she remained rooted to her spot. “It would be wise to avoid the mob, let them deal with the monster on their own -“

“He’s no monster!” She suddenly wailed, tears spilling from her with renewed fervor. “You don’t understand, Raoul, he’s nothing but a man!”

“Christine, please, he has you under his dark charm still. Come with me, my love, escape his clutches at last. Don’t you see? You are free now.”

“You can go, but I cannot leave him.” The woman snatched her hand away, turning. He caught her wrist, staring in disbelief. She fought against him, though she was too weak to free herself from his firm hold.

“You want to stay with him? For God’s sake, Christine, he’s a murderer! A demon that has you under his spell, don’t you realize?”

“He is human, Raoul! I cannot leave him behind!”

He stepped away from her in shock, letting her wrist fall. “You… want to help him? After all he’s done to you, to us?”

“Yes, I do!” she cried. “Please, you must understand. I can’t do it, Raoul. I cannot go on with you as if he didn’t exist, as if he didn’t need someone – didn’t need me - and we, this, isn’t right. I’m sorry, I really am, just…” She took the chain and engagement ring he had given her off her neck, handing it to him. Raoul, stunned, took it dumbly. She turned and ran.

“Wait, Christine! Christine!” He called.

She didn’t stop running.

-

The Phantom heard hurried steps behind him. It seemed his death had reached him minutes earlier than he expected. He closed his eyes, bracing for the vengeful cries of his pursuers.

“Angel!”

He sighed. I should have known it wouldn’t be so easy. He was hallucinating that his Christine was here now; perhaps he was dying already and was simply unaware of it, thinking of her in his last breath, listening to her sweet voice one last time...

“Please, Angel of Music, we must go!” A hand touched his shoulder and he froze. “It’s me, Christine! We have to flee! It won’t be long before they finally get here!”

He turned, and she was there. He blinked once, twice, begging the illusion to disappear. She remained, beautiful as he had seen her just minutes ago, though her face was fearful and tear-stricken. He could not bear to see her like this, knowing her pain was caused by him. The man reached out to her, confident that trying to touch her face would make her disappear.

Instead, he was met with her soft, real complexion. She had truly come back and was now grasping at his hand, her eyes begging and pitiful. He couldn’t leave her here, not when she had braved coming back alone – not when a group of revenge-driven men were well on their way to find them. He sprung to his feet, discarding the veil he had held.

“Come!”

She followed him as he went towards a wall, one that had a heavy, dark curtain covering an object fixed to it, and watched as he tore it off and revealed both of their disheveled reflections. Her angel pushed a tiny button in the mirror’s frame, making the section of the wall move open like a door and reveal a secret entrance to pitch black darkness. Before they went through, however, he let go of her hand, cursing, and went quickly to what she assumed were his private chambers. She trembled and whimpered, fearing the mob’s chanting as it got nearer and nearer and she was left alone. Her eyes caught sight of a white mask sitting on a table, and she took it in her hands, pressing it to her chest desperately as she prayed.

He reappeared, carrying a bag with him, and immediately dashed to her side. Christine clung to his hand as they stepped into the darkness, with he being her only guide. The mirror closed behind them just as the sloshing of water and the multitude’s voices became apparent.